How to find a language exchange partner

28 Aug 2012

Two weeks ago I gave some tips for starting a language exchange.

Language exchange is where you communicate (either in person or over the internet) with a native speaker of the language you are learning, who is also learning your native language.

In the comments, someone wrote (translated from Polish):

It's easy to look for more language exchange partners if your native language is English. After all, the whole world is learning that language. What to do if no one wants to learn Polish (ed: this commenter's native language is Polish). I don't think I'd find even one Swede who wanted to learn Polish.

I've heard this opinion expressed many times before - basically every time I bring up language exchange.

I agree it's harder if your native language is less popular. But it's definitely still possible to find someone online!

Read more for three tips on how to find a language exchange partner online!

Speaking strategies: Respond to everything!

21 Aug 2012

In the introduction to my FREE ebook, I mention that developing speaking strategies is a very important step in reaching "fluency" (although, I'm not fond of that word!) in a foreign language.

But unfortunately, this wasn't the topic of the ebook so I didn't discuss it then - which is why I'm trying to focus on it on my blog now (see previous articles).

Some situations are more difficult to speak in than others!

Two of the most difficult are:

  • Over the telephone, and
  • In group of native speakers.

Even though I've been learning Polish for over 5 years, I still personally have trouble in both of these situations. But the strategy I'm going to give you today helps tremendously!

Read more to find out what it is!

How to start a language exchange on the right foot

14 Aug 2012
Two hamsters sharing a carrot
Language exchange is about sharing! Photo by ryancr

Nothing can replace speaking your target language with a native speaker. A "language exchange" (sometimes called "tandem") is a great way to practice with a native speaker who is also learning your native language.

During each meeting with your language exchange partner, you take turns speaking both languages. Unlike classes or working with a teacher, the meetings are friendly, informal and (because they are mutually beneficial to you both) absolutely free. ;-)

Don't worry: you don't need to live near native speakers or in the country where the language is spoken!

As I've written before, you can do a language exchange both in person or over the internet.

I recently received this question via the contact form:

I've been studying Polish for about a year now and just took the step of reaching out to a Polish speaker on the Language|Exchange Project. I'm a little nervous about it, but I figured it will only help me get better. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to get the most out of the exchange.

Great question!

I've been doing language exchanges for several years (with both Polish and Russian) and I've definitely had my share of bad experiences. Through trial and error, I've come up with some ways to make my language exchanges as effective as possible. In this article, I give a few tips to help you avoid some common pitfalls.

Read more for four tips on starting a new language exchange!

Do I NEED to speak from day one?

29 May 2012

This is topic widely discussed and disagreed upon in the language learning community. One of biggest advocates of speaking immediately is Benny Lewis, author of the Fluent in 3 Months blog and creator of the Speak From Day 1 video course.

In the FAQ for that product, he writes: (some emphasis added)

Rather than read through the guide and watch all the videos to find out my one major 'secret', I can tell you right now: you need to speak the language immediately.

No years of studying grammar, no expensive and complicated software, no "magic pill" to master a language while you sleep, you just need to speak it. Speak it regularly, speak it confidently, and speak it immediately. The more you speak, the quicker you will improve.

Now, I'm a BIG fan of Benny. He recently gave me the amazing opportunity to write a guest post on his blog.

But in this particular point, I disagree. I don't think you NEED to speak from day one.

Read more to find out why!

3 super simple "speaking strategies"

21 May 2012

In the introduction to my FREE ebook, I talked about the three steps to speaking a language "fluently" (although, I'm not fond of this word!): (1) get the language in your brain, (2) overcome your fear of speaking and (3) practice speaking. (Like I mentioned in the ebook, these steps can be done simultaneously)

The game: Battleship
There is strategy in speaking too! Photo by Joe King.

Because the ebook discusses only the first of those steps, I've decided that I'm going to spend some time on my blog covering the next two. Today, I'm going to talk about #3: practicing speaking.

In this step, the goal is to develop and practice "speaking strategies" like circumlocution (for when you don't know a word), various conversational phrases to keep things flowing and even non-verbal tricks to make people more comfortable when speaking with you.

Silence is the one of the most uncomfortable things that can happen in a conversation, both for you and your speaking partner.

As a learner you might sometimes need a little extra time to process what you've heard or to form your response. But if the train conductor says, "Could you show me your ticket?" and you stare at them for 15 seconds without saying anything, it could get pretty awkward. :-)

In this article, I'm going to describe 3 super simple speaking strategies to avoid silence!

Read more learn what they are!

How to practice speaking over the internet

9 Nov 2011
Two women talking
The art of conversation. Photo by Duncan Harris.

Nothing can replace practicing your language with a native speaker. But what if no native speakers live in your city? Not everyone has the means to travel to another country.

But that doesn't mean you can't practice speaking!

I've written about language exchange in the past.

This is where you meet with someone who's native language is the language you are learning and your native language is the language they are learning. For the first half of the meeting you talk in one language and for the second half you talk in the other.

And the best part is that this is something you can do entirely over the internet, using voice chat software like Skype!

Read more to learn how!

How to overcome your fear of speaking

24 May 2011
Read this text with BiblioBird!
Woman with panicked look on her face
"I want to speak but I'm afraid!" Photo by Nate Steiner.

No matter how well you know a language, you can't communicate with anyone if you're afraid to use it.

While it might not seem like this has anything to do with language learning, this is a problem that affects a lot of people. Even me!

For a long a time, I was afraid to speak the languages I was learning (Polish and Russian). I still have trouble getting the courage to speak in certain situations (ex. on the telephone) or with certain people. It isn't something that I got over immediately, but I've slowly improved over several years.

Read more to learn how I got over my fear of speaking and how you can too!

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